AT a time President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration says it is on a drive to re-engage the international community, it has emerged that the government is blocking an International Labour Organisation (ILO) high-level delegation from investigating workers’ rights abuses, including arbitrary arrests and killings during the January protests, officials have confirmed.
By Nyasha Chingono
This comes after the ILO Committee on the Application of Standards requested Mnangagwa’s government to accept a high-level delegation into the country after Zimbabwe was found guilty of violating the rights of unionists during the labour body’s conference last month in Geneva, Switzerland.
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union (ZCTU) president Peter Mutasa told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that despite numerous requests, the government had maintained a hardline stance on the ILO visit.
“The government indicated that they are not interested in having a high-level delegation coming into the country. We urge government to accept the delegation as it would benefit the country,” Mutasa said.
Mutasa said government’s hostality towards the ILO probe team flies in the face of international re-engagement peddled by Mnangagwa since taking over from long-time leader Robert Mugabe in November 2017 following a military coup.
“It’s not wise for government to snub UN agencies as this will not go well with our re-engagement drive,” Mutasa said.
Previously, the country was condemned for violating ILO Convention 98 which provides for the right to organise and embark on collective bargaining.
In 2015, Zimbabwe was placed on the ILO agenda for violating the UN agency’s Convention 105 which stipulates that member states must undertake to suppress and not to make use of any form of forced or compulsory labour as a means of political coercion or education or as a punishment for holding or expressing political views or views ideologically opposed to the established political and social or economic system.
The listings resulted in the country receiving a high-level ILO delegation on a fact-finding visit.
During the ILO meetings, the ZCTU raised concerns over arrests of workers and their leaders, victimisation of workers’ representatives, killing of protestors, damage to ZCTU property, injury of staff members and the delays to reform labour laws.
The arrest of Mutasa and cleric Evan Mawarire after they urged Zimbabweans to stage a stayaway in protest against a 150% fuel price hike by government triggered debate during the ILO meeting, also attended by Labour minister Sekai Nzenza.
Widespread protests erupted across the country, but were ruthlessly crushed by security forces, resulting in the killing of 17 people. More than 70 people were left nursing gunshot wounds.
In response to emailed questions, the Ministry of Labour confirmed that the government had indicated that there was no need for such a mission, instead opting for regular updates to the ILO.
“At the end of the discussion, the officers of the committee who were presiding over the discussion requested the Government to consider accepting a mission to Zimbabwe to ascertain the progress it highlighted in the conversation,” the ministry said.
“In response the government indicated that there is no need for such a mission as it will update the committee through regular reports which are submitted to ILO supervisory bodies in terms of article 22 of the ILO constitution.”